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Medical School Interviews: A Staff Perspective

Alastair Gracie discusses medical school interviews.
Hi. I’m Dr. Alastair Gracie, and I’m deputy head of the Undergraduate Medical School. And my responsibility is primarily the early phases of the medical curriculum. So at the university, we have a semi-structured approach to our interviews. In early December, we will call our candidates, and at interview, they will meet members of staff in the department itself, or it might be medical practitioners in the city who are being the interviewers that day. So when we’re interviewing the candidates, I guess we’re trying to decide who will make a good medical student. Everyone will have the very high academic standards already. That will have been in their application.
I guess we’re looking for commitment, something about that person that makes them just that bit different, something that makes it personal. We want to find out about the actual candidate themselves when we’re doing the interviews. We often get asked about preparation for interviews, and at our open days, it’s one of the most frequently asked questions from people who are attending. I think I would caution against rehearsing interview answers, because you do then come over as very robotic. And of course, you can’t second-guess what an interviewer is going to ask you.
That said, it should come as no surprise, because when we invite candidates for interview, we actually give them an idea of the questions we are expecting them to know the answers to. I think it’s really important that anybody considering medicine really thinks about the university that they want to go to. They need to know how the teaching is going to be delivered at that university and if it suits them. So here at Glasgow, of course, we are nicely positioned as number two in the UK currently of medical schools, sandwiched between Oxford and Cambridge.
We pride ourselves in our curriculum, which really uses a wide variety of methods to deliver the curriculum all the way from PBL to didactic lectures to the integrated approach, where students from a very early part of the curriculum will be doing anatomy dissection, clinical exposure, meeting patients. I think it’s important to say that, at Glasgow, we don’t consider ourselves a PBL-centric curriculum. However, PBL is one of the ways in which we deliver the curriculum. So PBL is based around putting the student at the centre of the education, and they drive the learning in that teaching session.
Just as important as the knowledge that the student will get from doing PBL, we hope it will develop other skills, such as team working, collaboration, communication– the other professional skills that we would expect a student to develop during the time at medical school. One of the options that a medical student will have during their studies is to do what we call the Intercalated degree. Different universities approach this in different ways. At the University of Glasgow, they’re able to step out of programme and study it in far greater depth for a full academic year. Of course, the benefit is that the medical student then ends up with two degrees.
They get their honours science degree and they also get their medical degree at the end of their studies. So as I mentioned, we do a semi-structured interview at Glasgow, and we split it into two parts. The first part is really to find out about the candidate themselves, finding out about their personal interests, their achievements. And the second interview, we may pick a topical issue or something that’s ethical or been in the news, and we want the candidate to tell us about their thoughts on that particular issue– make them think and tell us that they’ve actually thought about what the current issues in NHS UK are currently.

We’ve heard the student perspective but what do staff have to say about Medical School interviews? Here, Professor Alastair Gracie, deputy head of the Medical School in Glasgow gives us his thoughts.

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